Sunday, October 24, 2010

City Council, Oct 25th - To Moot the Minto Bridge

Because of antiquated laws on river navigation, Council faces difficult choices about the proposed bridge between Minto and Riverfront Parks.

But they have an opportunity to make an easier and more obvious choice. While it is not explicitly on the agenda, it is a good time to consider returning to the decision to close State Street at the Carousel.

State Street is the intuitive gateway to the Park, the Carousel, and to the Minto bridgehead. By forcing additional out-of-direction travel to Court Street or mid-block on Front, or along Pringle Creek to the Civic Center, connections to the bridge would become less, rather than more, inviting from downtown. The current plan fosters division rather than connection.

(apologies for the frankenmap; click to see a larger version)

As for the agenda item itself, Urban Development is asking Council for direction on one of three main choices (for a little more on the legal framework see here):
1) Proceed with the low bridge at an estimated cost of $5.6M
2) Increase the clearance on the preferred design, cost estimates ranging from $8.3M to $11.4M
3) Re-enter negotiations with the Willamette Queen

The bridge will not be cheap, but summer bike counts in 2010 show nearly doubling usage on the Union St RR Bridge. People love that bridge and there is untapped demand for urban scenic walking and bicycling facilities entirely separated from auto traffic. It is likely that continuing to build out the trail network will maintain geometric growth rates in the near term!

Downtown Economic Improvement District

The other interesting decision Council faces is whether to renew the downtown Economic Improvement District.

At the last Council meeting, Go Downtown Salem proposed to create a "Welcome Center" in the Liberty Parkade at Ferry and Liberty. Council decided to refer the concept to additional interested parties like Travel Salem, the Conference Center, Downtown Advisory Board, CAN-DO, and the Salem Downtown Partnership for further comment. This may end in a competitive bid process for the center.

Additionally, if the contract for the downtown Economic Improvement District is renewed, it is possible the service provider, presently Go Downtown Salem, could change as a result of a competitive bid process. The staff recommendation is to continue the district and to invite proposals for the service provider through an open RFP, request for proposal.

Smoke-Free Parks

Councilor Dickey will introduce a proposal to make Salem parks smoke-free. In order to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, several neighboring cities ban smoking within the public, shared spaces of park lands, and Councilor Dickey proposes for Salem to join them.

Other Matters

Planning requests a reduction in the required auto parking in a building behind Broadway Town Square. The neighborhood is poised to be one of the most walkable and bikeable commercial districts in Salem, and devoting vast tracts of land to surface parking lots is not the best use of land resources. This looks like a sensible measure - but also a commentary on the out-of-balance parking requirements Salem currently works under.

Council will receive an update on Council Goals. The goals and progress reports are worth a look, but most of the goals are flagged with an "in progress designation" rather than a "completed" one. The goals are also somewhat hodge-podge and don't necessarily represent a coherent strategy for Salem. Indeed, some of them appear contradict each other, and it would be difficult to argue that the goals are internally consistent.

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